“He told us that what he wanted was to go on a cruise,” said Sonja Banks, program director of TriCounty Agency for Intellectual Disabilities.
McElrath’s dream came true in April when Banks and TriCounty’s executive director Linda Bender accompanied him on a weekend cruise to the Bahamas.
He raised the $700 for the trip himself by selling aluminum cans and collecting spare change.
McElrath entrusted his cruise fund with one of the workers at TriCounty. He came to the office on north Walston Bridge Road periodically to count it and see how close he was getting to his goal.
“He worked on it for several years,” Banks said.
McElrath’s first vacation also required him to take his first plane ride. Laura Johnson at DSI Walker County Dialysis made arrangements for him to fly to Miami a day early and stay a day late so that he could get dialysis.
McElrath didn’t believe Banks when she told him how the plane was going to get him from Birmingham to Miami.
“I thought it was going to roll like a car, but it did take off and go to flying,” he said.
The landing was a bit rougher than he expected and he almost had “the big one” like Fred Sanford.
“When we hit, he screamed. The whole airplane knew we were down,” Banks said.
The group sailed out of Miami on Friday, April 15. Their stops included Nassau and Great Stirrup Cay, a private island of the Norwegian Cruise Line.
McElrath had only good things to say about his first vacation. He said that he enjoyed every aspect of it, from the hot tub, food and entertainment on the ship to the sandy beaches of Great Stirrup Cay.
“The cruise was pretty good. It was a pretty good trip,” McElrath said.